Topsy-turvy on the surface, but dig deeper... (4 stars)
, January 2, 2009
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Like many of you, this was my first outing with MF Doom and Madlib. If you did your research, you would find that the two are highly respected in the world of [underground] hip-hop. MF Doom (aka Zev Love X) has a history dating back to 3rd Bass' "Cactus Album" from 1989. Madlib also made his debut in 1989, featuring work on The Beastie Boys' "Paul's Boutique" album. Between the two of them (under several aliases), they've appeared on more than 8 albums throughout 2003. Then, in March of 2004 they dropped "Madvillainy" on us. Doom isn't a stranger to twisted mythical tales about super villains. Add Madlib's cut-up orchestrated beats, and you get a duo that fits quite well together. On the surface, I'm sure plenty will call this collaboration a cluttered mess. I know that's what I thought at my first listen. But like many great [underground] hip-hop albums, it reveals itself to be so much more. Upon further listening, my respect for Madlib has been building for his complex "choppy" beats. He merits respect just for having the guts to make something that could be misconstrued as being poorly produced. Through further listening, you can tell he spent some major time digging and crafting these beats to (near) perfection. It's a unique and wild ride (two things I love).
Each track sounds like the setting of a comic book or a cartoon; although the addition of several movie samples from the 1940's adds to the cinematic feel of the album. The magic is found through the tight relationship Doom and Madlib have with each other. Some tracks sound like rough experimental obtuse projects, while others are very minimal and straight-ahead. For instance, "Accordion" features a very lazy accordion loop, while Doom drives quickly through his killer verses. Other tracks catch a great mix of accessibility and complexity, such as the pro-marijuana flavored "America's Most Blunted" featuring Quasimoto's helium induced flow. Tracks like "Raid" and "Meat Grinder" work very well in their non-traditional hip-hop sense, while tracks like "Sickfit" and "Rainbows" feel like their taking a nap after the climax of "America's Most Blunted". Some people might think, "What the heck are they doing?", but upon a "full" listen, the album reveals itself to be very worth-while. Latter tracks like "Figaro" and Wildchild's battle rhymes on "Hardcore Hustle" stand out nicely. Although one of my favorites is the 20th cut "All Caps".
After a few listens, the mix is still a little awkward to listen to. But with each listen, many of those feelings are stripped away. Until you get to a point where you can appreciate the skills brought forth in there experimentation. I won't lie though, it's not perfect, but it's dam* good, and definitely worth owning. Madvillain may not live up to your initial expectations, but it's surely a step in the direction that a true hip-hop head will appreciate.